Basic Text Formatting
There are certain attributes which, if you are used to using WordPress or another quality CMS of some sort, you should know about. Bolding (strong) and emphasizing text (em) is prevalent, and shouldn’t really be surprising anymore. There are a couple of concepts which may be fresh, though.
“Del” and “Ins”
These two tags are handy when it comes to modifying what you’ve written later. Blogging carries with it a number of etiquettes, best practices if you will: one of them is not changing what you’ve written without disclosing what you’ve changed. In some cases this is done with an editorial note or even a second post. But there is a better way.
XHTML provides a method for showing changes made using semantic markup. These two tags, del and ins probably aren’t included in your default WordPress editor, so you’ll have to add them manually to use them. (To do this, select Code instead of Visual when editing your pages.)
Anything that’s deleted, add
around the text that you’re removing. This will (by default) strike through the text. This is pretty universally accepted as meaning “I removed this text”. Adding
around text, however, will by default underline text instead of striking it out. These two tags used together could easily communicate what an additional paragraph could.An example:
Here’s something I’m really embarrassed to have written.
Treating Hyperlinks Well
There are two attributes which could prove beneficial when adding links. The first, most prevalent is the title attribute. The title attribute is displayed as a description which displays over the linked text when the text is hovered over. Provide a helpful description for where the link goes, especially if your linking text doesn’t describe it.
WordPress provides a title input box when linking up text in the visual editor, so this one is probably used more often than the next item I’m going to bring up. But admittedly I don’t always use the title attribute, especially if the text linking is very descriptive. Anyone have strong opinions on that?
The rel attribute is a bit more elusive in the blogging world, particularly (I think) because it isn’t well understood. Basically the rel attribute goes inside of links in order to denote the relationship of the target document with the linking document. You’d be most familiar with seeing rel in the links for stylesheets, like this:
<link href="stylesheetlocation.css" media="screen" rel="Stylesheet" type="text/css" />
But rel can also be used in other ways. If you are linking to a blogging partner, for instance, you might put in:
And this would say that the page the link is pointing at has a certain relationship with the page that’s sending the link. Really, think of each URL as a person. Your URL is you, theirs is them. There are other ways of using rel, but my purpose here is mainly to draw your attention to it. Read more about Microformats and XFN for more information about the rel tag.
Making Images Clear
Actually, it’s not about the images. It’s about the visitors. Some visitors may need some assistance with “seeing” your images (think of screen readers) without actually seeing them. The alt tag can help with that. It might look like this:
<img src="ryan.jpg" alt="A photo of Ryan" />
Now there’s an important note to consider about the alt attribute for images. It is not supposed to add anything to the image. All it is supposed to do is act as a replacement for the image if the image isn’t there. Check the W3C on the topic.
Pack Your Quotes
When I say pack, I mean with useful information. For instance, each and every quote can (and should) contain a cite attribute. The cite gives credit to the thing being cited, whether it’s a person or a website. The only trick is: you don’t get to see/enjoy the cite attribute’s content unless you View Source.
So why add in cite?
<blockquote cite="Ryan Imel"> So very few actually drop in the cite attribute. I'm about to say this, in real life. </blockquote>
So very few actually drop in the cite attribute. But one day you’ll all see the benefit, and then you’ll regret it. One day you’ll all see…
Hopefully that whet your appetite for powerful semantic markup a bit. If you need more, check out the W3C. It’s not attractive or fun to browse all the time, but it’s worth a look over now and then to see what’s out there. I would also suggest book from Friends of ED for more on smart semantic web practices.